Gluttony: How to Be Set Free
I read a sobering article a few weeks ago that stated gluttony, or excessive eating, is the most accepted sin in the Christian community. And it is one of the focus areas of a Christian weight loss approach. If excessive eating is a challenge for you, I’ve got a picture that can change your life.
I think of gluttony as getting drunk from food. Think about it…how do you feel after stuffing yourself from Thanksgiving dinner? Don’t you feel lethargic…sleepy?
The bible itself lumps drunkenness and gluttony together in Proverbs 23:21:
“For drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.”
Both alcohol and food have a profound effect on your mental state. Alcohol has a depressive effect and lowers your inhibitions. Certain foods have a chemical makeup that can either make you feel calm or more mentally alert, depending on the food.
While God created food for you to enjoy and allows you to drink alcohol, moderation is key. The problem comes when both are done to excess and you are unable to control yourself.
I learned recently that the root word of gluttony means “to gulp.” How fitting! When I used to overeat, I was less concerned about what I was eating and more about getting it down as fast as I could to get to the mental effects the food would bring me. I was using food to self medicate.
Is that true of you?
And then after the excessive eating, when my stomach was stretched and aching, I would be overwhelmed with shame and guilt…and regret. I was frustrated and depressed, wondering why I seemed able to control every other area of my life but this one.
It also impacted my spiritual life. As I made excuses for my behavior in this area, it became easier to make excuses for other behavior in my life that wasn’t pleasing to God.
Do you have peace about your eating habits? Gluttony can be a destructive habit at any size. I’ve seen people who are slim, but are secretly bulimic. They eat excessively then purge themselves afterwards.
While my faith helped me to renew my mind regarding eating healthy, it took longer to overcome my tendency to overeat. To this day, there are times when my mind still wants to keep going even after my body says “Enough.” Especially if the food is good! But with God’s help, I have gained the self control to say “No” to the temptation.
So what picture was I referring to earlier? A couple of weeks ago, I was fasting and praying, and a picture popped into my head of a man with horizontal lines going through his body. Before the image left me, I took a piece of paper and drew it out. I called the image “Temptation Anatomy”.
Once I looked at the picture, it became clear to me as to why gluttony became a habit for me. I believe this picture can be the key to overcoming every other negative habit that you might be struggling with.
Take a moment to look at the picture below:
The reason people fall victim to temptations is failure to make the cut between your thoughts and imagination when it comes to destructive thinking habits. Just having a thought about a temptation is not a sin. However, when you start indulging your imagination about that thought, involving your heart and emotions by picturing yourself engaged in that act, that’s when it gives birth to sin.
In the bible, Jesus said that if any man looks on a woman with lust in his heart he has already committed adultery with her (see Matthew 5:28). This is true because the act of imagination breeds desire, desire a decision to do it, and finally, the decision to act. If it is a habit you’ve practiced a long time, you may not even be aware that you go through these steps…because you’ve done them so many times that you move to Action with lightning speed.
I realized with my gluttony habit in the past, I would often think about going to buy a Pepperidge Farm coconut cake. Then I would generate mental pictures and movies in my head about how good it would taste, which would make me desire to have it. Then, I would decide to go get it. Finally, I would take action and drive to the store. I would end up eating the cake with abandon, even on occasion eating the whole thing.
So you see, a diet will NEVER fix the tendency to gluttony. It is an external solution to an internal problem. Sure, you can restrict your food intake, but unless you learn to exercise self control at the Imagination level, you will go back to your old habits as soon as the diet is over.
Here is the mistake most people make: They have the thought, start imagine doing it, desire to do it…then try to exercise self control at the Decision level by talking themselves out of it. That is way too late! Once you start imagining, it is very hard to stop yourself from moving to action.
So the easiest thing to do is to stop it right at the Thought level…imagine cutting the temptation off at the head as in the picture. Then, patiently replace the thought with something else because the mind cannot hold onto two thoughts at the same time.
What is the best thing to replace your thoughts with? The word of God. That is why it is so important that you study the bible so that your mind is renewed and you can be transformed. My favorite scriptures related to this habit are Romans 14:17 – “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
And Galatians 5:22-23 is another good one: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”
Print the “Temptation Anatomy” picture and post it on your refrigerator or any other place where you need the reminder of how temptations work.
Pray that God grant you wisdom in your eating habits and trust that he will answer your prayer. SLOW DOWN and really taste your food. Enjoy it. You must eat slowly in order to hear when your body says “Enough.” And when it speaks, listen and stop eating. Put the fork, spoon, bag or box down. What the enemy means for harm, you can allow God to work the situation out for your good.
Your mind will protest as you start this new habit, but smile and simply tell yourself, “No.” Speak it aloud if you have to. What the mouth speaks, the ears hear, and the soul absorbs.
You will be amazed at how powerful this little word will make you feel. And each time you say it, it will get easier.
Finally, learn about other ways you can relax and calm down. I’ve have found that most people overeat in response to stress. There are far more effective ways to manage stress than to eat. One simple, but overlooked technique is to practice deep breathing regularly when you feel tension in your body. Another is simple stretching exercises. Praise music is also a great relaxation tool. Find some alternatives that work well for you.
The bottom line is that your body is not your own. Remember, because you are a disciple of Christ, your body houses God’s spirit – an honored guest! Keep this in mind as you welcome that guest by allowing him to cultivate those fruits of the Spirit within you, including the fruit of self control.
Then by your faith and positive action, you will be truly asking God to “Take Back Your Temple.”